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On May 5, the Indian army and Chinese troops had a scuffle at the Pangong Tso lake. The area locates 14,000 feet above sea level in Ladakh. The video of the scuffle was shot by an Indian soldier who shared it on social media. The video soon went viral and showcased stone-pelting and fistfights between the two troops. They were at a Line of Actual Control or the de facto border of LAC. It has almost been a month but the tensions have been constant for the army men at the border. The incident left 11 soldiers injured. Here, is all the update you need to know about the India-China standoff.
On May 8, around 1,200 km away from the Pangong Tso lake, another fight happened. This place was towards the east of the LAC and at the Nathu La Pass in Sikkim. The Indian soldiers had stopped a patrol party from the Chinese army, as they had supposedly trespassed, and that’s what led to the fight.
Both India and China downplayed the actions and the issues were solved by local commanders. Such situations have happened before and resolved in a similar way. This is the worst border standoff since the 2017 Doklam standoff between the countries, which went on for 73 days. The previous one was triggered when an Indian soldier was stopped by PLA from constructing a road at Doklam. The area is claimed by the neighboring country of Bhutan, which is a close ally of India. However, some analysts suggest that the Chinese border assertion is one of the ways to deviate from the coronavirus pandemic. On May 26, Indian PM Narendra Modi held a discussion with the National Security Adviser and three services chiefs.
Trump offers to mediate the situation
India and China have been camping along with several disputed areas in and around the border. Both sides have accused each other of trespassing as well. On May 26, a spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the country is committed to maintaining the security of its national territorial sovereignty. He also said that they need to safeguard peace between India and China by stabilizing control over the border areas.
On May 27, Trump took to Twitter to state that he is ready to arbitrate the border dispute between India and China. It was the first time he gave such an offer. On May 28, the Indian foreign ministry stated that they are in talks with China to deal with the current India-China standoff situation as Delhi sidestepped Trump’s suggestion to mediate on the matter. An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said that the country is engaged with the Chinese side to resolve the matters peacefully. He also added that the Indian troops are taking a responsible approach to maintain protocols and stabilize the situation.
Reasons behind the growing tension
There was no immediate response from India’s Ministry of External Affairs. However, they did accuse the Chinese army to hinder their regular patrolling around the LAC. Anurag Srivastava, who was reporting on behalf of MEA said that the Indian army has only been doing their duty on India’s side of the LAC.
As per the Indian official, around 100 tents can be found on the Chinese side, while there is about 60 on the Indian side. Around 10,000 PLA soldiers are supposedly camping on the territory which starts from the Pangong Tso Lake, then goes to the Galwan Valley, Demchok in Ladakh, and then to the Nathu La in Sikkim.
The chief of Indian Army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane, reported at Leh on May 22 to take control of the situation. It is the capital of Ladakh territory that was carved out of Indian-administered Kashmir in August 2019.
With little information given from both ends, media has been speculating and assuming much about the India-China standoff. The tension might be triggered due to the activities happening around the LAC.
For the past decade, India has been trying to boost the border infrastructure by building new roads and airbases in remote Himalayan regions. Border skirmishes aren’t new to the frontier that stretches 3,488 km between both the countries. Most of the region remains disputed and that is the reason why there is constant conflict. Over the years, the de facto border has been calm even though there have been several skirmishes often on.
Possible assumptions of all-out combat
As per analysts, there is a fear that the current India-China standoff can escalate and result in war between the countries. Chinese trucks are alleged to move equipment inside the Indian side of the LAC. As per reports, China wants to continue the border problems. They allegedly keep India off balance and prevent their focus to go towards Tibet, which is actually a deeper problem for China.
A defense analyst from Delhi, Ajai Shukla, said that is the problems keep escalating it might mean “all-out combat”. There are thousands of Chinese army men in the Indian soil. Engaging in combat is the last thing that remains. China might use an excuse for a construction activity form adding pressure on India for political and economic objectives. The General also added that India is not sure of such objectives.
As per the reports of pro-Beijing Global Times newspaper, the last border friction was a planned action from Delhi. It was reported by Long Xingchun, Beijing Foreign Studies University. According to reports, India has illegally constructed defense equipment across the borders of the Chinese territory in Galwan Valley area. The Chinese defense troops were left with no option but to take necessary action. These situations led to conflicts between countries.
Confrontations for China
Adam Ni, the director of China Policy Centre from Canberra said that both countries want to maintain peace due to domestic challenges. Beijing and Ni have many issues to tackle, like Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the economic recovery. The relationship with the US is also taking a confrontational turn. According to him, China doesn’t need one more confrontation right now.
China and India fought a war in 1962 and the conflicts around the border remains. Beijing claims the Indian state of Arunachala Pradesh while Delhi considers Aksai Chin region controlled by China.
During the late 80s, former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi held discussions with leader Deng Xiaoping to reset ties. Since then the border has had calm and two countries jointly agreed to abide by guidelines.
The countries sign an agreement in 1993 to maintain peace. Later, in 1996 and 2006 the countries signed more agreements for more such measures to maintain peace and order.
Post 90s, the countries have been economically cooperative and have bilateral trade going on of worth $92 billion. However, a large trade deficit has made India concerned.
In April, Indian government curbed Chinese investment and Beijing called it “discriminatory”. India’s growing defense and security collaborations with Japan, Australia, and the US have also alarmed Beijing. On the contrary, China’s ties with Nepal and Pakistan, which has always been in dispute with India, has not gone down well with the country. Moreover, the Belt and Road Project by China and the huge defense budget results in a geostrategic challenge for India. China’s defense budget is $261 billion, which is thrice as much as India’s $71 billion.
Modi and Xi summits
PM Modi and President Xi Jinping have been in good relations all through. However, analysts state that the two summits held so far to maintain peace and tranquility beyond Doklam seem to have undone now.
The last major border problem happened in 2014 when the Chinese army entered Ladakh. But the standoff issue was resolved in three weeks. As of now, there are tensions regarding the current standoff.
Manoj Kewalramani, a Fellow-China Studies fromeTakshashila Institution based in Bengaluru, India, said that the current situation started from local level friction and went onto patrolling and infrastructure developments. He said that what is happening right now seems to have central guidance in China and their leadership doesn’t want to fall weak in terms of territorial issues. The situation fits the conditions relating to what’s happening in the South China Sea and Hong Kong as well.
Current update on the standoff
A couple of days back, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that diplomatic and military communication is open between both the countries. He said that the matters will resolve soon. He said that China believes that both countries can talk and resolve the matters.
Even since the standoff started, both the troops have been increasing the number to stay prepared. Beijing’s comment came after Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh commented that the movement will not allow India’s pride to be hurt. He also said that they’re trying to ensure the tensions don’t escalate between the countries. The matters must be resolved at diplomatic levels. Currently, there are negotiations going on between both countries.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China is implanting consensus between the leaders of the country. They said that China is committed to upholding national sovereignty, security, and stability at the border.
The overall situation in the border is under control and stable. They have unimpeded communication channels and hope to resolve issues over conversations. Both Delhi and Beijing rejected Donald Trump’s offer on mediating between border tensions. Trump had offered to “mediate or arbitrate” in the “raging border dispute” between the nuclear-armed Asian countries.
Over to Lt Generals
Over the last few days, both India and China have been trying to de-escalate the situation along LAC. The Lt General-level officers from both India and China will have a discussion after multiple levels of military dialogs didn’t work out in the month-long standoff.
The meeting will take place on June 6 and might possibly end the critical issue. In all probability, Indian delegations will be led by Leh-based 14 Corp Commander. This is a high level of military dialog that will include discussions on sensitive matters.
There have already been three rounds of talks between the Major General-rank officers who are the division-level commanders. The countries want a peaceful resolution to end the ongoing problems in Ladakh by establishing bilateral mechanisms.